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Happy 6th Birthday to Maddie!

March 13th, 2014

A bit more delay getting this one out, but at less than a month after her birthday (and a cruise right after), I’ll take it. Here’s the latest letter to Maddie.

Dear Maddie,

It’s hard to believe that you’re SIX years old today. And today is an exciting day since we are staying in a hotel tonight in Savannah…which is about halfway to Port Canaveral. We’re going to be taking a cruise on the Disney Fantasy starting on Saturday! We are so excited. We celebrated your birthday with a cute little 4″ chocolate cake at dinner tonight along the way.

When you first heard that we were going to have to drive on your birthday, you whined about how it “wasn’t fair” and “why doesn’t Cullen have to drive on his birthday?” After the first few times, I think it sunk in that you’re a lucky girl since you get to go on a Disney cruise for your birthday! You’ve been a happy girl today, so I don’t think you minded much at all. The two of us had a special lunch together at your favorite restaurant, the Shiny Diner, and you picked out a set of Frozen figures from the toy store as your gift. We listened to the soundtrack a lot in the car, and you acted out the parts with your dolls. Daddy and I didn’t realize how much of an impact the movie has made on you!

I’ll admit that we aren’t going on the cruise specifically for your birthday. It just happened to be the best time for us to go based on your track out times and when we wanted to go. Year round school certainly has its advantages when it comes to vacations. We recently learned about one of the disadvantages of year round school…snow make up days. We learned that snow make up days for year round are on Saturdays!

It’s been a crazy winter. We’ve had extremely cold days (for the south), with temperatures getting into the single digits a few times. You even had a school day delayed because it was too cold! We had several times when we had flurries, and now we’ve had two major snow events. Again, “major” is a relative term when you live in the south. For reference, the last measurable snow that we had was the day after Christmas in 2010. The first snow event was a couple of weeks ago, and you missed four days of school (plus the first originally scheduled Saturday make up day). We had about four inches of snow, and you and Cullen had so much fun playing in it. You were very excited, and I love seeing you so ridiculously happy. You have learned that you LOVE snow, and I don’t think you mind that you have to make up the days on Saturdays.

The snow was very powdery and not the sort that makes for good snowballs or snowmen, but that didn’t matter to you. You just loved running around in it, making snow angels, and attempting to throw snowballs at Daddy. We went outside to play in it several times, and then came back inside for a warm bubble bath each time. You especially liked when you were treated to drinking hot chocolate while in the bubble bath!

The second snow was well anticipated, but nobody was sure how much we would get. We waited until a little after noon for the snow to start, and when you first noticed it, you squealed like it was Christmas morning. Once it started, the area was covered in snow fast and caused gridlock across the county. All of us stayed home that day since schools were closed, and we were very thankful to be safely at home! We ended up with about six inches of snow before the ice pellets started. This snow wasn’t great packing snow either, but we were better prepared this time. A couple of days before the snow hit, I bought two of the last sleds in the county. I’m so glad that I did. You and Cullen had the best time sledding! I love seeing how excited you were with all the snow and fun. It was snowing so heavily that I set a bowl outside to catch a bunch and made snow cream. We all enjoyed the special treat, especially when we added sprinkles and mini chocolate chips. Yum!

We even had a snow day from school for Valentine’s Day. You and Cullen had to exchange Valentines at school on a different day, but we had a nice day together. We gave you and your brother little Lego sets of a bear holding a heart. For whatever reason, you and Cullen called these your, “Botatunia bears.” It’s like the two of you have your own language sometimes. One of you will say something ridiculous, and the other will catch on right away leaving us wondering where you come up with this stuff! We had pink heart shaped pumpkin pancakes, and we ended the day with heart shaped chocolate chip cookies. It was a sweet way to spend Valentine’s Day, even if Daddy and I had to work. You and Cullen did a pretty good job of entertaining yourselves while we did our work. You enjoy having your brother with you when you’re at home!

With both of the storms, you missed seven days of school. So far, we’ve only made up two of them on Saturdays. The snow definitely disrupted our schedules in the past few weeks! Your dad and I were ready to get back to the usual routine, especially your dad who is used to having a quiet work day at home. You’ve been doing well at school. I’m impressed with how well you’ve adapted to kindergarten. You get special homework for reading comprehension, and you read so fast now! You have started to do some reading on your own at home, but you prefer to read out loud to us. I know you like the time that we spend together when you read to us. I think you read independently to yourself at school more than you do at home. Lately, you’ve started reading bedtime stories to your brother sometimes! It’s so sweet. Your reading comprehension is improving as well.

You seem to be doing well in all areas at school. Recently, you have been interested in doing “math equations” with simple addition and subtraction. You’re getting to the point where single digit addition doesn’t require any thought on your part. We don’t see a lot of your math progress, but we’ve heard you talk about a math notebook that you keep at school. We’ve done far more reading, spelling, and writing at home than anything else. When asked what your favorite parts of school are, you reply that you like lunch and recess. You also love art, of course.

You went to art camp several times since my last letter, and you tried a new arts camp that focuses on drama. I was so proud of you as you were nervous on your first day. You ended up loving it, too! It has a lot of art as you design sets and costumes and then put on a play at the end of the session. Usually, the play is performed at the end of a full week, but you went to a special 3-day session. You will be doing this camp again in a few weeks, this time for a full week. I hope you continue to enjoy it. It’s great to see you branch out into other areas, and I think that the performance part of this camp will help you break out of your shell a little. You have a lot of anxiety about new things and talking to new people. The familiar art projects helped ease you into the new stuff. We are impressed with some of the things that you have been creating lately, and your art teacher has commented that your skills are advanced for your age group.

We took advantage of the track out over Labor Day week to take a trip to Cincinnati and Lexington to visit with Daddy’s family. Once again, you and Cullen were great travelers as we drove to Cincinnati, Lexington, and back home. You entertained yourself for much of the drive by drawing in your new notebook. You drew so much in the notebook that we had to buy you a new one when we got to Kentucky! In Cincinnati, we visited with Grandpa T, Aunt Jessica, Uncle Jack, and cousin Ava. Shortly after their trip, your cousin Zoey was born! We had a wonderful time with them at EnterTRAINment Junction, a train themed indoor amusement park and fun house. We look forward to meeting Zoey and seeing them all again.

You saw your second major league baseball game at The Great American Ballpark. We saw the Reds win against the Cardinals, Grandpa’s team! Grandma and Grandpa met us in Cincinnati for the game, and Grandma spent the night with us in the hotel. Other highlights included the Labor Day weekend fireworks, Graeter’s ice cream, playing in the fountain at Fountain Square, and touring our historic hotel (The Hilton Cincinnati Netherlands Plaza). We made a detour on the way to Lexington to see the area where Daddy grew up.

We then spent several days in Lexington visiting with Grandma, Grandpa, Heidi, and Dylan. We made a couple of trips for bubble tea at the shop, which you love. We surprised Heidi with an early birthday cake. We had a great day at the Kentucky Horse Park with Grandma. There we did a scavenger hunt, you ran a horse jumping course, saw several shows, saw champion horses, rode a carriage, played on a playground, and walked around the pretty grounds. You even touched a few horses! Of course, you and Cullen enjoyed picking out a little souvenir at the gift shop.

The trip to Cincinnati and Kentucky was our only overnight trip that we have made in the past six months, aside from our fall gaming weekend and a new winter gaming weekend. In the fall, you and Cullen stayed with Nana, Papa, and Aunt Kristin at our house while Daddy and I stayed in the local hotel and played board games. You and Cullen joined us in the hotel a few weeks ago. You two get so excited about staying in hotels! I can’t wait to see how much fun this cruise is going to be.

We didn’t have many trips but we did lots of other fun things this fall! Since we went to Disney World in October 2012, we missed some of the usual fall events that year. This year, we went to both the State Fair and the pumpkin patch. Since you had school for the week of the fair, we couldn’t go in the middle of a week day when crowds are lowest. We figured early on a Sunday would be our best bet, but the fair is so crowded on the weekend. We went with Sophie and her mom. This was Daddy’s first time at the fair, and I’m not sure we’ll be able to convince him to go back. We started with the ferris wheel, which we all enjoyed but wished was a shorter ride. It was neat to see the fairgrounds from above. We stayed mostly in the kiddie area, and we rode the roller coaster, the big slides, and the carousel. You are definitely ready for more thrilling rides! You opted to sit out of one ride that Sophie and Cullen rode together because it looked too boring to you. We also had ice cream and cotton candy.

We also went to the pumpkin patch on a Sunday morning where you and Cullen had so much fun bouncing on the giant pillow (until it got crowded). You enjoyed the mazes, hay jump, corn box, train ride, hay ride, and picking out your pumpkin. Your favorite thing was the giant slide! I even went down with both of you together, which was a fun moment for me. We almost didn’t have a chance to carve the pumpkins, but we did them at the last minute. We let you and Cullen design the faces, and they turned out adorable!

You had several opportunities to wear your Halloween costume this year. You decided to be Sofia the First, a Disney Junior princess. Until Sofia came onto the scene, you were adamantly against princesses. Now, you have started to add a few acceptable ones to your list. You like Sofia as well as Anna and Elsa from Frozen. You’ll even admit that Cinderella isn’t so bad from time to time, but you’re iffy about her and others. I think you like Merida from Brave alright. The non-traditional princesses are more your style for sure. You wore your Sofia costume to a work Halloween festival, to our Halloween themed book club, and on Halloween night. You will sometimes wear it around the house while Cullen pretends to be Sofia’s older sister, Amber. He’s a cute boy in your dresses.

I had hoped that you would have a parade or celebration at school, but your class didn’t do any kind of costume event around Halloween. We teamed up with our neighbor’s grandchild and cousin and went to maybe 20 houses. You guys had plenty of candy, but you traded most of it to the Halloween Witch who left you Legos in exchange. You each picked out your favorite 10 pieces of candy, and then you had one a day for the next week or so. After that, the candy was pretty much forgotten. You almost didn’t want to trade any of your candy to the witch, but you changed your mind when I let you know you weren’t going to be able to eat whatever you wanted.

I volunteered as a chaperone for your very first field trip. We went to one of the local pumpkin patches with a corn maze. I was assigned to you and three of your classmates, and I was so nervous that I was going to lose one of you in the corn maze! You and your friends were excited when we started the maze, frantically pointing out every ear of corn. Wow, there’s actual real corn in the corn maze! By the end of the hunt, we all just wanted to get out of the maze. Your classmates started saying things like, “I don’t like long corn mazes” and “I’m tired” and “I’m hungry.” It was my first corn maze, and I’m not sure that I’m itching to do it again! Still, I was so excited to experience everything with your first field trip.

I have volunteered several times in your classroom. Daddy even volunteered once to help you and your classmates make “goo.” Your school has a special literacy program where parents come to the classes and talk about the character trait of the month and read a book that exemplifies that trait. I’ve done this twice, and the first time the trait was loyalty. I was impressed with a lot of the answers that your classmates gave when asked to define loyalty. Of course, it also made me laugh as several of your classmates tried to explain that it was when you live in a castle with a king and queen and stuff. Love was the second trait, and it was sweet to hear your classmates talk about their families.

The first time I read coincided with Letterland Day. You have been learning all about the Letterlanders this year, which is a way to teach the alphabet and phonics. You already know these basics, but you have had fun learning the Letterlanders. You and your classmates dressed up as Letterlanders. I loved getting the opportunity to see all the costumes! Of course, your first choice was Vicky Violet since she is purple head to toe!

You don’t have too much homework, aside from your advanced reading homework, but you do have some projects. You decorated pumpkins in October, created posters with 100 objects, and had to interview and dress up as a community helper. You picked “teacher,” and you interviewed our next door neighbor. You still require a little help from us, but you typically make all the decisions on your projects. You certainly have your own creative ideas!

We had another event at your school last month – your first science fair! You and I looked through a variety of projects on a website of ideas. You picked one that involved testing the strength of various origami structures by seeing how many pennies they would hold before damaging the structure. It took a little bit of effort to get you to actually sit down and do the project and the project board, but I think you were quite proud of yourself when you finished it.

Last month, you celebrated your 100th day of school. In kindergarten these days, this is a big event! Classrooms celebrate in different ways, and yours had a morning full of special activities. I joined other parents to help your classroom with different stations demonstrating the number 100 in different ways. I helped you and your classmates make Froot Loop necklaces, which I think was a favorite! It’s so rewarding to see how happy you are to see me at your school, and I like getting to know your friends. I was able to join you for lunch, though I mostly watched you eat rather than opt for the school cafeteria. You bring lunch from home, and it’s almost always a plain turkey sandwich (shaped like a heart) with some fruit, often yogurt or cheese. Sometimes you have carrots or frozen peas (which you and your brother call “pea pops”).

Daddy turned 40 in October, and to celebrate he made a trip to Cincinnati in November to see a Bengals game and visit the new casino with Grandma. While he was on his trip, Nana and Papa came to visit us at home. It wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet, but we made a special trip to the mall to see Santa! You also rode the carousel and took a ride with Papa on the train. You told Santa that you wanted a big Lego set and a Rainbow Loom. The Rainbow Loom is all the rage with elementary school crowd, and you were introduced to it in kindergarten. Since then, you have been making lots of rubber band bracelets for friends, family, and stuffed animals. Santa brought you the Rainbow Loom, the Summer Riding Camp Lego set, and a Kindle Fire. I think Santa was hoping the kindle would encourage you to read more independently, and you love it. Of course, you rather enjoy playing games on your own tablet! You have been reading more and more on it, so I think it’s a great new tool for you. You have a subscription program for kids that allows you to select from screened content for your age. I think you enjoy the freedom to pick your own books and apps.

We spent Thanksgiving visiting with Kristin and Chad on their farm. They are currently living with Chad’s parents, and they invited us to join their holiday celebration. We didn’t stay overnight, but we had a nice long day of visiting. We all enjoyed getting to see the goats and chickens! We are looking forward to seeing their new baby goats, if we can come up with a time that works for everyone for us to visit again. We saw where Kristin and Chad are building their new house which will hopefully be done sometime this summer. We had a nice day visiting with them and look forward to seeing their house!

We spent the rest of the weekend kicking off our Christmas season. We set up our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving. I love getting out the Christmas decorations, especially the ornaments. We love the Hallmark ornaments, and usually Santa brings several and Nana and Papa give us a few as well. We mark each ornament box with who received the ornament, who gave it to them, and which year it was. It’s so much fun to open each box and talk about the ornaments. You seem to love them as well. I hope that some day you will enjoy having these ornaments from your childhood as a representation of all the things that you loved over the years! We made gingerbread houses that same weekend. This year, we also made Ninjabread men for the first time. We all had fun with those! You and Cullen each had a Lego advent calendar this year, and that was a lot of fun. You put together your new mini model each morning until Christmas!

You and your brother had a slumber party in your room again this year for Christmas Eve. We spent the day decorating sugar cookies, making chex mix, and listening to Christmas music. I love our traditions! We left out some cookies for Santa and chex mix for his reindeer. You and Cullen snuggled into your room in your Christmas jammies, and we read both The Grinch Who Stole Christmas and The Night Before Christmas. We spent Christmas day by ourselves as a family of four with a lot of excitement and love. We celebrated with Nana and Papa and Kristin and Chad the previous weekend, and Grandma and Grandpa came to visit the next day. I love Christmas, and I’m always a little sad when the decorations come down.

This year, we left the tree up until after New Year’s Eve. We have an annual games night party that night, and I liked the idea of more people being able to see our tree. By then, our tree was VERY dry and sagging. I think if we’re going to leave it up that long next year, we probably need to do a better job of watering it in the first couple of weeks! New Year’s Eve was fun for you as it was the first time that you stayed up to ring in the new year. Your brother decided to lay down and go to sleep in our bed at 11:30pm, but you made it until about 12:15am. You were so proud of yourself! We have games nights about once every other month. You don’t play that many board games at these events so far, but you love playing with friends. New Year’s Eve was also one of the first times that your dad and I were able to both play games while you and your brother did your own thing. Usually, one of us has to be available to assist you two (or break up fights). We were able to do the same thing at our last games night a few weeks ago. It’s another one of the many signs that you and your brother are growing up!

We have really seen you mature in the past six months, and I’m amazed at some of the things that you say and do these days. I would say that art is definitely one of your biggest interests, and we have been fostering that with your track out camps. You also have art specials once a week at school. You have been asking to take either ballet or gymnastics. We did a hip hop and tumbling class at my work, but I don’t think it was a good fit for you. We have you signed up for regular gymnastics class in a few weeks. I hope you’ll enjoy them! You have expressed interest in taking piano lessons, and I hope to get you into some lessons in the fall. You have been doing great with rollerblading, but the schedule won’t work for us for this next session (since you have too many Saturday make up days). We were a little disappointed since you were recommended for the advanced class for the first time! Hopefully, you won’t lose some of that momentum by taking a break. We probably will return to rollerblading lessons once the schedule works better for us.

As a family, we have been going to more plays and movies. We went to several plays since my last letter. We saw Frosty the Snowman, Dora the Explorer, and Pinkalicious: The Musical as part of a kids series. We especially enjoyed Frosty and Pinkalicious! Our book club saw a production of Hansel and Gretel. Book club continues to be a lot of fun, and we’ve branched outside of the Magic Tree House books. Now each meeting we have a topic, and we read whatever we want within that topic. Recent topics have been Halloween and Snow. You are transitioning to doing all the reading yourself, but we’re still reading some of the chapter books to you. We saw Disney on Ice, and you went to your first hockey game. The ice show made an impression, and for weeks you were putting on “ice shows” for the family and anyone who would watch. Watching hockey does not seem to be your thing. I think you were pretty bored! Our family had a great time seeing both Frozen and The LEGO Movie in the theater. We have been singing songs from both movies, especially Frozen!.

Your favorite stuffed animal (or “buddy,” as we call them in our house) is one that you got when we went to see Frosty the Snowman. It’s a snowman that you’ve named “Snowy.” She goes everywhere with you! She goes on trips, she rides in the car to school, and you take her to bed with you every night. Before that, you briefly snuggled up with Baby Sister again after a while with Tenderheart. Tenderheart and Baby Sister are still important to you, but Snowy has the spotlight right now!

Your brother continues to be your best friend, though you have made quite a few new friends at school. You are friends with most of the girls in your class, but you didn’t quite want to invite them all to your birthday party. Your initial list of invitees included all but two girls, but we ended up with a smaller set as to not leave out only two girls. Your birthday party is going to be an art party, and you are all going to paint a birthday cake. I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes!

You have been growing up so fast. You constantly surprise us with things that you say, drawings and work that you bring home from school, how you interact with your brother, and just things that you seem to suddenly know. You are reading even when we don’t realize it, often referring to text in your games on your kindle, TV shows, product packaging, and signs by the roadside. I know you’re reading faster and comprehending more, but it still surprises me sometimes! You still love wearing pigtails, but you often want to wear a more mature ponytail instead. You are a beautiful, intelligent, sweet little girl. I’m so proud to be your Mommy. I love you more than you can imagine!


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